But an acquittal does not necessarily mean the accused is morally or ethically innocent. It seems clear to me that none of it would have happened at all if Zimmerman had not followed Martin in the first place. Deep in my heart, I still feel that he provoked the tragedy. It might not have been premeditated murder by legal definition, but it was no accident, either.
|Rabbi Gershom in a hoodie|
When I was growing up, "self defense" meant that you could use force to save yourself, but only as much as was necessary to either subdue your assailant or escape. It did not automatically mean you could use deadly force just because you felt threatened. And even in the Old Wild West, you simply did not shoot an unarmed man. There was a sense of fairness, even in self-defense.
Since Treyvon was unarmed, the original "threat" must not have seemed all that deadly -- unless we assume that Zimmerman felt a personal threat beyond just seeing a teenager walking home. What did he see? A black kid he did not know, wearing a hoodie in his gated neighborhood. I believe it was that profile that initially caused Zimmerman to feel threatened -- and I'll bet that if Trevon had been a white guy with an umbrella (it was raining that night, hence the hoodie up), he would not have been stalking him that night.
Which brings us back to the original question: Are we now going to say it is OK to stalk somebody just because you feel their appearance threatens you? I certainly hope not. That would be a terrible step backward in society that claims to value diversity. This is an important discussion, and if anything good can come of the Treyvon Martin tragedy, let it be this: that we all take a long, hard look at our own prejudices, and take steps to correct them.